Grain storage bags raise mycotoxin concerns

CornHarvestTruck_12RF20487255_blogWith corn harvest now underway, several factors including low crop prices and a shortage of storage space, are contributing to more and more farmers turning to polyethylene bags, or “bag silos,” as a crop storage solution instead of traditional storage bins and silos.

While these bags, which are also being used for soybeans and wheat, offer a temporary solution that allows farmers to hold on to their crops until prices rebound and also eliminates the need to wait in line to deliver grain at elevators, factors including mycotoxin growth in these bags is an issue farmers need to take proper precautions to avoid.

According to a recent article in the AgriNews, “although these bags are hermetically sealed, they can leak, especially if there are tears or punctures in the flexible plastic lining or if the bags are placed on wet ground.” Moisture in these bags can then lead to mycotoxin growth.

“It’s not as simple as opening one end and shoveling in the corn,” said Klein Ileleji, a grain post-harvest technology expert at Purdue University. “Potential users should be aware that the bags, which can measure up to 12 feet in diameter and 328 feet in length, require careful site preparation, regular monitoring for moisture content and temperature and special tools for loading and unloading.”

In order to avoid moisture seeping into these bags and thus lowering the risk of mycotoxins, the article offers several precautions for farmers to take. These include:

  • Make sure the site is dry and well drained.
    In the article Ileleji suggests “placing the bags on slabs of concrete or asphalt to allow better drainage and checking frequently for damage to the plastic cover.”
  • Make sure the crop is dry before storing it.
    “The key to using bag silos effectively is to get the grain as dry as possible before storing it,”  Ileleji said. He also recommends “drying the grain to a moisture content level of 15% or lower before bagging.”
  • Check the stored crop regularly for moisture content.
    “Once the crop is stored, it is important to check for moisture regularly, especially if the weather turns rainy or snowy or there are long warm spells. Bag silos are not ventilated, which means there is no way to circulate air inside to prevent moisture buildup in the grain. The only way to test the grain for moisture once it is in the bag is to put a small hole in the cover, extract the sample, then reseal the bag using adhesive tape. The special adhesive tape from the manufacturers work best,” Ileleji said.

For more information, click here. For information on Neogen’s mycotoxins test kits, click here.

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